Ever heard of Zero Point Software? No not the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator or as some of you may know it the Gravity Gun from Half Life 2. Also to you Stargate fan in the back corner, no, not the oft sought for Zero Point Modules from Stargate: Atlantis – kudos to you however for actually watching that spin off. Wasn’t as bad as Universe come to think of it.
Mr Physics Man down in the seats at the back. Yes we can all see you and your dashing pocket protector saving your shirt from the onslaught of the ballpoint slipped surreptitiously into your pure white shirt. It isn’t also called quantum vacuum zero-point energy, the lowest possible energy that a quantum mechanical physical system may have.
It is in fact also not something that the UK generally scores at Eurovision.
Surprising as it may be, Zero Point Software is the name of an independent game developer. One that is not getting anywhere near enough coverage. One that is blazing a trail across the hard drives of truly devoted FPS gamers and fans of tactical shooting alike. That’s why we here at n3rdabl3 are going to ram it into you face and show you the incredible work they have already done. Reload your guns and prepare for super early access to what, hopefully, will become a new standard to which indie FPS games will have to adhere. First of all perhaps a screen shot will help you get an idea of what the next thousand or so words is going to be about.
Pequed your interested a little there have we? Through a vast amount of work on their part ZPS have been able to build a game which not only looks good by indie standards, but looks at 95% of the AAA releases with teams swarming over each texture and machine guns them into a bloody mess of tears and broken dreams. All that detail, the way the light dances onto the helmet dynamically picking up marks from moisture from a previous rainstorm. Pulling this sort of imagery out of the Unity 4 engine – an engine which has given us such graphical flops as Family Guy Online and Dungeonland – bears the mark of a developer whom oozes with passion for detail.
No relation to the Christopher Nolan film currently in development. Sorry film fan who looks very confused. Go on, run back to IMDB where you belong!
“We like randomized gameplay, its good. It gives a game infinite replayability and won’t let the game fall into your Steam library as one you always pause when updating because you simply cannot be bothered to let it when you won’t be playing it again.”
The current edition of the game is… ok not really a game necessarily now. It is essentially right now a techdemo with 16 player multiplayer team death match maps. If anything as it stands the game is more of a Benchmark test for high spec computers with a little shooting gameplay thrown in. Don’t let it fool you though. Running around the tech environments is a joy in itself. Just by pressing N you can change the weather patterns of out door areas from sunny, to cloudy with rain, to heavy thunderstorms and finally to night time. Or as it has become known in the Met Office, a simulator for normal UK weather patterns on any given day. The indoor locations are not something to be sniffed at too. While they carry the usual trilogy of grey walls, grey floors and grey ceilings the textures are far from boring. Especially with the impressive lighting dancing over them they could keep any sci fi junky occupied for hours on end just wandering around checking out the little details.
The only example of gameplay currently available is the aforementioned 16 player Team Deathmatch. While it is as hard as a stale cake left in a polar bear’s house for the past two years when you first start out there’s unprecedented depth in it all. Usually taking place within the corridors of underground facilities the map changes from one scripted environmental state to another.
One minute you can be fighting in fully lit corridors and instantly the map changes to a flashing red lit alarmed state before all the lights go out and you have to resort to using your flashlight. Added to the fact you can be killed with as little as three shots to the chest and one shot to the head it makes for some very tense movement. Combined with the stellar sound design even this little tacked on server test is the Bee’s Knees.
You can also take off your helmet! How many times have we wanted to do that in an FPS. Ok never. Just being given the option however after the first time doing it you start to demand it in every single FPS where you have to where a helmet. We are looking at you master chief. We know the tin on your head comes off! We’ve all seen the Legendary Difficulty ending to Halo 4 [note: in my case on YouTube].
The unique AAA Indie development has been supported purely through crowd funding and pre order money allowing ZPS to sidestep ridiculous publisher constraints. Instead of making a game to sell to the mass market they are developing an ode to the great tactical shooters of old. Rainbow Six, Deus Ex even elements of SystemShock are all there just waiting to be found and to be developed. This isn’t a game you see on TV and instantly go out and buy because all the cool kids are buying it. Interstellar Marines is a game you pick up to play quietly alone only to find a huge throng of a passionate community
With it being billed as a First Person Shooter RPG with a focus on teamwork and realism we can expect to see a full campaign jammed into this amazing work of passion along with more focus on the sound designs. Things like Live Voice Layering – a system which changes what the voice of a player does depending on their location and state – will be added into the game along with a couple of extra features which have this writer bouncing off the walls for more! But first…
Landsharks. Not pathetic crappily made Landsharks. Actual well done and modelled landsharks that fit the locales and story of the game. Just look!
Oh yeah and mechs. Lets not forget to mention mechs shall we.
Persistent character development. A feature everywhere these days. Almost every recent FPS feels the need to stick a character levelling and skill unlocking tree into its game and Interstellar Marines isn’t going to be much different in that respect. Apart from that very first word. Persistent. So no matter what you go and do you’ll be levelling your character as you want it. Big tick in the yes box for awesome features. Helped along by a freely customizable selection of weapons to tune your marine to play as you want them to and a randomized, non-linear gameplay and level design strapped to the side of it brings to mind XCOM. Your first fifteen levels could be totally different to the fifteen levels your friend plays or the first fifteen levels you play if you make a different character. We like randomized gameplay, its good. It gives a game infinite replayability and won’t let the game fall into your steam library as one you always pause when updating because you simply cannot be bothered to let it when you won’t be playing it again.
Recommending it as a purchase right now however is a double edged sword. Buying in early will give you access to all sorts of content as it comes available and of course full access to the final game. However as it stands now especially with the Steam Sale still in full swing £11.99 could be put to better use in at least two games that will bring you lost of instant joy and pleasure while putting it down for a tech demo and a multiplayer mode may be a little too far. Thinking on it though, for benefits over the rest of the game’s development and ultimately its release putting down the same amount of money as you’d pay for you and a friend to have a decent meal in your nearest gastro pub before even bothering to pick up some drinks the deal is special to say the very possible least.
Investing in your gaming future is what some would call it.
So how does it sound to you folks? Want to think about giving it a blast? Don’t forget. The game is not finished. Current access is essentially an alpha test with a couple of minor bolt ons. If you’d like to see this kind of game more leave your opinions on this gem in the comments below or throw them at us on Twitter @n3rdabl3. To actually support the game itself head over to http://www.interstellarmarines.com/ or go find it on Steam and pick it up. Go kill Landsharks! You know…when they actually get put in. There’s always frying your graphics card. Yeah, frying expensive equipment is always fun.